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Award-winning Ukrainian writer who uncovered Russian atrocities dies in missile attack

Amelina
Victoria Amelina. Credit: Victoria Amelina via Facebook.

A 37-year-old Ukrainian writer, Victoria Amelina, died in a hospital from wounds following a Russian missile attack on downtown Kramatorsk, PEN Ukraine informed. Victoria Amelina traveled to liberated Ukrainian territories to document Russian war crimes. She was killed during one of such trips.

On 27 June, Victoria Amelina was in Kramatorsk (Donetsk Oblast, eastern Ukraine) with a delegation of Colombian journalists and writers when a Russian missile hit the Ria Lounge restaurant in the city center. As a result, Victoria was seriously wounded. Doctors and paramedics in Kramatorsk and Dnipro did everything possible to save her life, but the injury was fatal. Victoria’s family and friends were by her side in her last days.

Russian missile strike kills 3 kids and injures 8-month-old baby in Kramatorsk

Victoria Amelina died on 1 July. PEN Ukraine reported on Amelina’s death today after all of her relatives learned about it and with their consent.

In the summer of 2022, Victoria Amelina joined the human rights organization Truth Hounds to document Russian war crimes on the de-occupied territories of Ukraine. Following the liberation of Izium in Kharkiv Oblast in the fall of 2022, Victoria traveled to Izium and Kapytolivka, where she found the diary of the Ukrainian writer Volodymyr Vakulenko, whom the Russians killed during the occupation.

This is what genocide looks like: Russian torture chambers in Kharkiv Oblast

At the same time, Victoria began working on her first nonfiction book in English, War and Justice Diary: Looking at Women Looking at War, which will soon be published abroad. In this book, Victoria tells the story of Ukrainian women who document war crimes during Russia’s all-out war against Ukraine.

Victoria took an active part in advocacy work: she appealed to other governments to provide weapons to Ukraine, demanded justice, and the creation of a special international tribunal for all perpetrators of Russian war crimes against Ukraine.

Victoria Amelina’s books have been translated into Polish, Czech, German, Dutch, and English. Recently, her novel Home for Home was translated into Spanish.

In 2021, Victoria became a laureate of the Joseph Conrad Literary Award. In the same year, she founded the New York Literary Festival, which took place in the village of New York in the Bakhmut district of the Donetsk Oblast in eastern Ukraine.

Amelina
Victoria Amelina.
Credit: Victoria Amelina via Facebook.

Victoria Amelina was born on 1 January 1986 in Lviv (western Ukraine). During her school years, she moved to Canada with her father but soon decided to return to Ukraine. She stood with her country until the last day of her life.

After the Russian missile strike at downtown Kramatorsk, the death toll has risen to 13 people, including three kids; 60 people were wounded, including an eight-month-old baby.

In Remembrance of Victoria Amelina: memories from her friends

“During our last meeting, for the first time since the start of the war, we spoke about the future – you said you were going to France to work on the gathered material [about Russian war crimes] and write a book. That your son would go to school there. And that you regretted that you haven’t had the opportunity to spend quality time with him since the start of this damn war. That future looked beautiful. You kept asking if people would condemn you if you left the war. As if one could truly escape from a war. You, who spent so much time traveling to the outskirts of combat zones, to newly occupied cities and villages that were always under fire, who brought an endless number of foreign journalists there, who recorded the testimonies of the survivors. You, who uncovered Volodya Vakulenko‘s diary. You, who said, “I would go to Kherson Oblast right now after the dam explosion, but no one wants to take me. I might go alone.”

I tried to discourage you, but you couldn’t be dissuaded. You would go somewhere you had in mind, even if the whole world and all circumstances were against it. You walked right on the edge of the war, fully aware of its sharpness. I don’t know if you were drawn by danger. But I understood that you were going there for something incredibly important to you. Something bigger than life. And bigger than literature. Again and again, with a new group of journalists. So that they could see and tell. The journalists saw and reported…” Ukrainian writer Halyna Kruk wrote on Facebook.

“Vika is no longer with us. The Russians will wake up, drink their coffee, go to work, pay their taxes, sponsor even more Russian rockets and bullets. One of them will press a button, another rocket will fly. Live with this, citizens of a country I despise. You will never wash away all these deaths and the death of Vika Amelina.

Our Vika was among those severely wounded in a café in Kramatorsk. She was there with a delegation from Colombia, none of whom were severely hurt. But Vika was. She was quickly brought to the doctors in Kramatorsk, then to Mechnikov [hospital] in Dnipro. The best doctors fought for her life, and many wonderful people participated in the chain to save Vika. But…

A talented Ukrainian writer, who also started writing powerful poetry last year. An activist and researcher who traveled to hot zones to collect testimonies of victims. A person who put all her soul (and her own money, by the way) into a literary festival in New York in Donetsk Oblast and local teenagers with whom she formed connections. A loving wife and mother to a wonderful boy, she always wrote about her son with such tenderness that we all got to know and love him,” Ukrainian director and writer Iryna Tsilyk wrote.

English-language translation of a war poem by Victoria Amelina

When Mira was leaving home she took a bead from her jewelry box
When Tim was leaving his town he picked up a rock from the street
When Yarka was leaving her garden she took an apricot pit
When Vira was leaving home she took nothing
I’ll be back soon, she said
and took nothing at all
Mira has grown a jewelry box from her bead
and is growing a new house in this box
Tim has started a city from his rock
The city is like his hometown
except there is no sea
Yarka has planted her apricot pit
now she has her own orchard around it
And Vira
who took nothing
is telling this story
When you are escaping home
she says
your house behind your back
is getting smaller
to save itself
The house is turning into
a grey rock
a bead
a last-year apricot pit
a Lego figure
a mussel from Crimea
a sunflower seed
a button from Dad’s uniform
And then the house fits into your pocket
and there it sleeps
You should pull it out
when it is ready
in a safe place
Little by little, the house will grow
and you will never,
remember, never ever
lose your home
So what did you take with you, my little girl?
I only took this story
about coming back home
Here, I pulled it out into the light
It is growing
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